Venturing Downunder – Kia Ora Tāhuna

“There are 89 funds in the room so the ability for us to get those learnings from all these folks that have done it before and the next generation coming through. It’s fantastic to have all the knowledge from our whole venture ecosystem in Australia and New Zealand all in one room.” – Stew Glynn, TEN13  

Our VC community is welcomed to Queenstown with a traditional Māori Pōwhiri

For the sixth year, our Venture Downunder event has remained a mainstay and hallmark moment on the Innovation Bay events calendar. Each year, we invite our VC community (Aurora) to gather, celebrating the camaraderie of togetherness and collaboration. Our venture members learn from one another, adventure together, and connect in a deeper, less distracted way that enriches them (and us) with new insights, new connections and a fresh view that we all can take on the road and into the wider industry. This year’s VDU was a spectacular reminder of the powerful and meaningful community that has been built in Aurora and Innovation Bay. 

Across 3 days and nights, with Tāhuna (Queenstown), Aotearoa (New Zealand) as the incredibly stunning backdrop, we drew a line in the sand between what came before and how we dive into the next chapter from here. 105 VCs from 89 funds collectively came together to forge deeper connections and learn valuable insights from one another. 

This extraordinary event was made possible by our critical partnerships with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, our national partners Google Cloud, IAG Firemark Ventures, and KPMG High Growth Ventures, and our Aurora partners ASX, Gilbert + Tobin, FCX, Edda and Department of Industry, Science and Resources. 

Upon arrival, we were welcomed by a traditional Pōwhiri, a breathtaking and deeply moving blessing from our Māori neighbours, where we let them know we came in peace – eager to forge a connection. After a lesson on the haka, hearts full and welcome, we jumped on jet boats into the centre of Queenstown. We spent our first evening at the beautiful Mountain Club, the hub of all things startup in Queenstown, where members had the chance to connect with the local ecosystem through a meet and greet with 14 of New Zealand’s top founders. We then moved to a beautiful and intimate dinner at Eichardt’s Grill.

The crisp morning of day 2 began with a brisk walk or an invigorating plunge into Wakatipu Lake for some eager early risers. We then headed up to arguably one of the most stunning places on earth – New Zealand High Country – where we spent the day immersed in content and learning. Innovation Bay curated a unique program which put our members in the driver’s seat – a loosely framed, choose-your-own-adventure style of absorption. Kicking off the morning we heard from Rick Baker (Blackbird) and Kim Jackson (Skip Capital) who together wonderfully articulated the evolution of the VC/startup ecosystem in Australia, reminiscing on their first hand experiences of when the ecosystem looked a little different to where it is now. 

Venture members at New Zealand High Country for our content day

Next, we called upon 12 moderators from our community – members and partners – to facilitate learnings across three content themes Liquidity: Profit like a Pro, Beyond the Investment: Nurturing Founders, and Navigating the Macro Economic Outlook. Across the three themes we delved into four sub-themes to derive the following insights…

Nurturing Founders, Beyond the Investment

Founder – VC Relationships

Hands On vs Hands Off: How Active Should VCs Be With Their Portfolio? 

Dealing With Co-Founder Breakups 

A Founder vs a CEO 

Liquidity: Profit like a Pro                                        

Liquidity Options

IPO: When, Where and How 

The Future of Private Markets 

Growth vs Profitability / Hold vs Sell 

Macro Economic Outlook 

At What Speed Should We Be Deploying Capital?

What’s Happening Globally? (particularly in the US) 

Immune Sectors: Where Should We Be Investing? 

The power of data and raising funds 

The stunning views of Queenstown, New Zealand

After two days of connecting and learning, day 3 was designed as a brain break – to allow the learnings to simmer and settle in our minds and cement the new and continued relationships we’d built. Our members broke out into activity groups – from skiing and snowboarding at Coronet Peak, a tour through the picturesque Queenstown wine country, to jet boating, quad biking and scenic hikes through the countryside. VDU’s final night was a neon 80s apres-ski themed affair – an evening to celebrate the abundance of community spirit in the fresh Queenstown air. 

There’s no doubt our Venture Downunder event fortifies the VC community, but what does it do for our founder communities? Well, lots actually. VCs have different investment theses and philosophies and we spent significant time delving into each of them. We know exposure to diverse perspectives and opinions encourages critical thinking and open-mindedness. Leaders of the Australian VC community have returned from VDU energised and fuelled by a heightened sense of curiosity. This makes them aptly equipped with a wider network and incredible peer-to-peer insights, so they can better support their portfolio of founders through the scale-up journey.

For more insights on the power and purpose of events like Venture Dowunder, and their butterfly effect on our industry, please take a read of Phil Morle’s (Main Sequence) recount here

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